Rangers have ended their long wait for Champions League football with a 1-0 win over PSV Eindhoven in Wednesday night’s playoff.
Antonio Colak was the hero for Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s men as he scored his fifth goal in the last six games to secure the coveted spot in the group stages for the first time in 12 years.
The 1-0 victory in the Netherlands puts Rangers through with a 3-2 aggregate win following last week’s 2-2 draw in Glasgow.
Ironically the former Malmo forward’s goal comes almost a year to the day since he scored to knock Rangers out of the same competition.
The win means two Scottish teams will be in the groups for the first time since 2007 as last year’s Europa League finalists join city rivals Celtic in Thursday’s draw.
Both Rangers and PSV went into the game knowing what was at stake with 26 group stage appearances between them since the Champions League format was first used in the 1992/93 season, with PSV qualifying 16 times and Rangers 10.
But the Dutch giants haven’t been past the playoff round since 2019 with Rangers fans waiting even longer from their last taste of the big time in 2010.
Van Bronckhorst was without Alfredo Morelos for the game after the striker was dropped from the squad over fitness and attitude concerns as Colak retained his place up top.
And it was the Colombian’s replacement who had the first real chance of the game from a Kent cross but the defender managed to clear it behind for a corner as Rangers had their first good spell of possession around half way through the first 45.
And on the 25th minute John Lundstrum fired a shot just wide of the post after an impressive passing move form the visitors who continued to give as good as they got against the 1988 winners.
De Jong looked certain to break the deadlock with three minutes to go before half-time when he got away from the last defender to meet and inch perfect cross but his volley was straight at McLaughlin who managed to keep the scores level.
Then no more than a minute later Gakpo should have made it 1-0 when he made a run through the Rangers defence but the highly-rated winger, linked with a big money transfer to Manchester United, blasted his shot over the bar.
PSV started the second half the same way they finished the first but Rangers came close to grabbing a goal against the run of play when Tom Lawrence’s shot beat the goalkeeper but hit the underside of the crossbar on the 55th minute.
And just five minutes later they grabbed the all important first goal when Colak put them ahead after Tillman capitalised on sloppy defending to nip in and take the ball before putting it on a plate for the Croatian forward.
Rangers could almost touch the Champions League when Tillman’s shot looked like it was goal bound before Benitez managed to claw it wide and prevent a second.
The last ten minutes was mostly backs to the wall but, other than a few scary moments, Rangers managed to deal with everything thrown at them without much stress.
And the away end of the Philip’s Stadion erupted when the referee blew his whistle to confirm a return to the big time for Rangers who will now be watching Thursday’s group stage draw with great interest.
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